North East firm, PlaceChangers, a leader in digital innovation for collaborative town planning applications, achieved a significant milestone by releasing a new site analysis tool on the PlaceChangers platform.
This innovative tool allows users to create and analyse parameter plans for new development projects and local area plans with regard to health and wellbeing credentials, such as active travel, and access to green and open spaces. The tool cuts down on manual tasks for data gathering and reporting and helps developers become more evidence-based and data-driven in their approach by giving ready access to site information, including demographics, local health profiles, and analytics of site layouts.
In most construction projects, budgets for early site analysis are often constrained. At the feasibility stage for a new development a significant number of project parameters are set not only for the business case, but also often through an initial site layout. The PlaceChangers site insights tool provides an opportunity to cross check sites and draft layouts at an early stage for any significant issues. It then enables architects and urban designers to find appropriate design responses.
Working in partnership
Over the course of the development of the new product, marketed as PlaceChangers Site Insights, PlaceChangers brought together urban designers, planners, developers and local government to discuss the barriers present in considering health outcomes at an early design stage in a project.
The initial use case for this tool is in completing Health Impact Assessments. This new tool has been shaped by planners at Chelmsford Council, who were a project partner on this project. Chelmsford Council is a founding member of the LiveWell Developer Accreditation, which rewards developers who take health and wellbeing outcomes into consideration in their designs. This initiative also aims to support greater uptake of Health Impact Assessments for major developments, which is an ambition that PlaceChangers shares.
Planners at Countryside Properties and Brentwood Council contributed two large-scale urban extensions as pilot projects and were involved in testing and shaping the new functionalities to their requirements. Meanwhile, between December 2020 and February 2021, PlaceChangers completed a closed beta programme to shape the new product in preparation for the product release.
Jeremy Potter, Spatial Planning Services Manager at Chelmsford Council, said:
“We have been successfully collaborating with PlaceChangers on work related to the objectives of our Livewell Development Accreditation which seeks to embed health and wellbeing principles into new development. An essential part of the planning process is to ensure that new development delivers the ideas and aspirations of our communities. Digital tools, are going to be increasingly important to convey, deliver and monitor new policy requirements to ensure high quality and well-designed new development”
Michael Chang, an expert in public health and the built environment and advisor to the project, noted:
“There is growing interest and calls for the use of Health Impact Assessments in the planning system. As part of efforts to make the process and outcomes of HIAs more accessible and directly relevant to developments, this new tool supports the state of the practice in integrating health outcomes into the planning and development process.”
Sebastian Weise, Founder at PlaceChangers said:
“This tool has the potential to be a game changer in the way we design new developments. It highlights the links between urban space and health outcomes and combines it with deep location analytics that consider the place and its people in order to provide useful design suggestions.”
Alex Moon, CTO at PlaceChangers said:
“A software system cannot hope to replace human insight and creativity, but it can replace a lot of the repetitive work we know many housebuilders and urban designers currently undertake manually. Many will see, straight away, the benefits of this product, and I am sure many more will find creative uses for it that we haven’t anticipated. I’m proud of what we’ve done here, and I am excited.”
Globally, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of walkable access to green spaces and communal facilities for promoting public health and individual wellbeing. In particular, access to green space is an important equalizer in the health difference between poorer and more affluent households. The King's Fund estimates that every pound spent on features that promote walking and cycling generates a long-term return of between £50 and £168 from benefits unlocked through greater quality of life of residents. This tool helps to cross check how far a development supports those aspirations.
Further information on the new tool can be found here: PlaceChangers Site Insights
InnovateUK is the UK government’s innovation agency. Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D.
Chelmsford City Council is a local authority in Essex and is an active contributor and promoter of the Essex LiveWell framework.
PlaceChangers is a startup focused on digital solutions for collaboration and engagement in development and regeneration projects. The PlaceChangers platform helps architects, urban planners, and developers to understand the context of new development proposals through collaboration and intelligent handling of data.